It is thrilling to see Sheldon Richman’s post about Destutt de Tracy here. Sheldon zeroes in on all the key points. This was Jefferson’s favorite economist. Tracy figured out exchange long before the Austrians. He was a true liberal in the old sense, a lover of commerce who understood the critical points about freedom. We have a wonderful edition of his book up.
Listen to this: “Whenever I make an exchange freely, and without constraint, it is because I desire the thing I receive more than that I give; and, on the contrary, he with whom I bargain desires what I offer more than that which he renders me.”
And my all-time favorite: “Society is purely and solely a continual series of exchanges. It is never anything else, in any epoch of its duration, from its commencement the most unformed, to its greatest perfection. And this is the greatest eulogy we can give to it, for exchange is an admirable transaction, in which the two contracting parties always both gain; consequently society is an uninterrupted succession of advantages, unceasingly renewed for all its members….”
Tracy is long overdue for celebration.